You’ve reached your tipping point – top 5 signs

An athlete’s optimum level of performance involves them having the right balance of the right things in place. In sport ‘perfect’ involves:

  • passion for the activity – enough to motivate you to turn up each day
  • smart scheduling – for maximum exertion plus maximum recovery
  • great nutrition – to give body and mind the highest quality energy to call on
  • quality sleep – good yin, good yang
  • being totally present – fully aware of the task and how you’re going to deliver when the time comes
  • commitment to improvement – learning equally through successes and challenges
  • an excellent support team – coaches, sparring partners, nutritionists and sports therapists

There’s no doubt a person can be talented at more than one thing, but choosing to commit to more because of what other people want, keeping people onside or being seen to be super-capable – these are not good enough long term motivators. And you will speedily reach your tipping point.

A person’s working life has extraordinary parallels to the life of an athlete, so you’ll know you’re at your professional tipping if you notice these 5 main factors:

  • Your motivation has reduced– you’re imgining being somewhere else and you’re no longer stretched by the role
  • Decisions are less clear – when you’re involved in an activity that doesn’t sit inside your sphere of being ‘purposeful’ it’s harder to intuit the next right move
  • You’re getting panicky – the list of ‘to do’s only ever gets longer. You’re getting 8 things ticked off it each day, but 12 things are going on. You’re living with a growing sense of ‘I’m only reacting – there’s nothing strategically though out going on’
  • Relationships are stretched – at work and at home ‘the unspoken’ is getting louder. You haven’t the time to work stuff out so the tension grows as collaborative conversations are replaced with direct requests and instructions.
  • Core value are being compromised – many top execs know that they can high perform only when the fundamentals are in place. Quality sleep, good nutrition, regular exercise, supportive relationships being maintained, clear vision of the benefits of investing their professional time. When you begin to operate in the absence of these things on a regular basis stress and anxiety will increase

The tipping point is a real thing. If these 5 points are present for you then quality conversations focussing on change are required. Speak to your director, HR head, coach, or mentor. Define what ‘best working practice’ for you looks like and take some practical steps to ensure your core values are re-instated and any excesses in what you’ve said ‘yes’ to are edited back to an absolute minimum.

Your Ceiling of Success

You know how sometimes it takes an intensity of the same thing to occur multiple times before the penny drops? Like 5 super-valuable executives leave the company within a 3 month period before a CEO recognises that they’ve all been reporting to the same undeveloped senior director. Or targets go unmet over 6 terms in a sales department although the training’s great, before the issue is pinpointed that the client relationship management software has glitches and requires an investment and update.

Recently I had an influx of  senior executives, from a range of companies and backgrounds but who had all excelled in their roles early in their careers. It took me a while to recognise the pattern –   each of them was in his or her early 40s; they were directing their business sectors, if not MDing the entire company; they were effective in their role and respected within the company; each was happy personally, in a committed partnership with children; and crucially … each had come to a point where their apparent personal & professional success was no longer fully satisfying.

There’s a program that I work on with senior executives called The 7 Steps to Personal & Professional Freedom (you can get the simple version in my book of the same title – available on Amazon.co.uk), and the first step is always Clear & Courageous Thinking. It’s what we do, consciously or otherwise, when we imagine the outcome we want for our lives. Many people picture a version of what they’ve seen their parents achieve (so doctor’s children become doctors, teacher’s children go into teaching)  and expand on it a little. Others have dreams as children with no model present in their family or social groups (the daughter of a miner becomes a entrepreneur, or the son of a plumber becomes a lawyer).

Wherever I see high achievement in executives in their late 30s and early 40s, there’s been a clear thinking process since childhood, which has often involved bigger-than-average risk and action taking to get there – that’s the courageous part –  (so they might have moved country with small children whilst in their 30s in order to say ‘yes’ to the next corporate step up; or they might have taken a temporary salary cut at a key point in their career in order to shift from an creative path to a commercial path because it looked as though there might be more longevity and opportunity there in the long run).

Here’s the challenge though – those who have held a clear and courageous vision since childhood often achieve the outcome within 10-15 years of their post-university career. And that doesn’t fit with the historic story of ‘work until your 60, then retire rich and happy’. They’re already rich and happy and they’re only 42 years old! These executive are managing a ceiling of success because they had no clue to imaging bigger, brighter or more purposeful.

Breaking through the ceiling is where a successful director will ask ‘so what does ‘more’ look like?’, or ‘how do I add meaning to my ambition?’, or ‘what if I took all my transferable skills and knowledge and started again from ground up?’. It’s a beautiful piece of new, clear and courageous thinking; the next step of expansion. And, similar to when they were children, the adventure’s just beginning and the sky’s no limit!

Executives of the new world …

As a corporate coach, and particularly as an executive coach in London and other commercial-centric cities, I’m beginning to ask myself whether business change isn’t occurring faster that ever before in history.

What makes a leadership team, and by extension an entire company, equipped to manage such significant changes as:

  • outsourcing production to global hubs
  • launching new brands when the traditional ones are clearly in decline
  • embracing new business models without damaging present essential revenue streams
  • attracting talented staff who’ll contribute immensely whilst putting home-life first. They have no interested in working overtime or ‘mad’ hours
  • letting go of a company culture that thrived through the past 2 decades but will fold in the next one unless flexibility, meritocracy, transparency and diversity are fully embraced
  • keeping ahead of technological advancements, shifts in product delivery and customer sophistication

There are incredible opportunities opening up for small & medium businesses and for the corporate giants too. These are the strategies I’m noticing the front runners utilising:

  • Active investment in the personal & professional development of a company’s c-levels, directors and executives – it keeps them on form and permanently innovating – and when they’re convinced, they’re convincing
  • Do less – that is, get supremely focussed on the specific activities required to get results. Everything else is a non-priority
  • Keep alert: just because a product or promotion worked last year, there are no guarantees that the same results can be achieved by repeating it 12  months later. Re-review product, market and process, and tweak where necessary
  • Create a clear succession plan for top talent, and purposefully open doors for high performers to progress. Retaining great employees takes know how and active expectation management
  • Buy knowledge & expertise where they’re not already present within the organisation. An external provider is often exposed to a spectrum of examples that can’t be seen from within a culture

There will come a point where the speed of change reaches maximum velocity. At that time the heart of what individuals and tribes want will return to basics: simplicity, community & meaning. There are glimpses of those values already in expansion across the globe. We’re not there yet though, so to all you leaders sensing the stretch – breathe deeply, get resourced and enjoy the ride.